A gig at Electric Circus in Edinburgh on any given evening is usually quite a sweaty affair. A sold out gig at Electric Circus in Edinburgh at the height of the festival is as hot as Megan Fox washing the windows in that episode of Two and a Half Men. The room was tightly packed with a mix of festival revellers and die hard “Dry the River” disciples gathered to worship at the feet of their folk rock gods. Ok, ok, all biblical metaphor aside “Dry the River” are undoubtedly a band that deserves that kind of devoted following. This was the second time in the space of a couple of months that they have dually managed to provide some of the best harmonies I’ve ever heard live, and also melt my face off with a soaring hardcore post rock wall of sound.
At around nine o’clock the video screens that dominate the wall behind the stage were switched off providing the perfect mirrored backdrop for the band to take to the stage. The lights flashed and reflected off the metallic surface as a burst of smoke gushed out of the smoke machine and the band opened with the rolling hum of “Shield Your Eyes”. Exquisitely bearded bass player Scott Miller then welcomed the crowd by saying “we love playing Edinburgh it’s good to be back, the last time we played here was in the basement of some Moroccan type club last year”. By the time they had run through a flawless rendition of “History Book” it looked like the heat was starting to get to the band too as they fanned themselves and got the towels out to dry the river of sweat (sorry) from their brows. More than anything though this perspiration was an indication of just how hard this band plays live, every one of them gives it everything they have on that stage and that commitment and love for what they are doing shines through.
Lead vocalist Pete Liddle joked after “Family” that it was the song the band had “snuck onto the album”. This of course was in reference to it being placed about two minutes after the end of “Lion’s Den” on their Peter Katis produced debut album “Shallow Bed”. Thank goodness the record company relented in their opposition to the track being on the album as tonight it shone beautifully in a live setting. Mid set “Weights and Measures” was introduced by Peter saying “we’re going to try something that we sometimes do when we play in rooms about this size“. As they all stood back and sung the start of the song without their microphones it sparked a mass yet hushed sing-along among the crowd especially to the line “I was prepared to love you, and never expect anything of you”, definitely one of those goose bumps inducing gig moments.
Alluding to some of their antics at Reading and Leeds festivals over the weekend, Peter took a light hearted dig at Scott saying that the bass player “thought he was in Mastodon last night instead of in a little folk band”. “No Rest” with its thumping build up to the repeated shouts of “I loved you in the best way possible” rang out with even more urgency and intensity than it does on the album. While the band and Katis have done a wonderful job getting a close representation of their live sound on record, augmented with fuller strings and trumpets for me it’s definitely live that this band thrives.
Thanking us for coming out and helping them to get over their collective post festival hangovers the slow burning “Bible Belt” transitioned effortlessly into the near seven minute beast that is “Lion’s Den”. It built and built past the three minute mark before exploding into a barrage of head banging, throwing instruments from side to side and a wailing sound that “Godspeed You Black Emperor” or “Explosions In The Sky” would be proud of on any night. They then left the stage to a massive round of applause and after that performance there was no need for an encore and nothing left to prove, “Dry the River” are without question on the rise.
1) “Shield Your Eyes”
2) “History Book”
4) “New Ceremony”
5) “Weights and Measures”
6) “Shaker Hymns”
8) “No Rest”
9) “Bible Belt”
10) “Lions Den”